Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in this story. They are the property of Rumiko Takahashi and whoever she sold the rights to.
Shampoo landed gracefully from the form that she had just completed from high in the trees. One of the things that she was grateful for in regards to her Jusenkyo curse was a heightened sense of balance and awareness. Her balance before she could turn into a cat with cold water was already excellent but now she could perform midair feats without having to worry too much about how she landed. Somehow the natural senses of her cat form had seeped into her human form which allowed her to land on her feet almost every time. It certainly helped with the amount of death defying stunts she was performing while learning the Saotome midair combat style.
Which was exactly what she had been doing for the better part of two weeks. Learning a brand new style from a series of incomplete sketches was, to put it simply, difficult. However, Shampoo was definitely feeling improvement and was pleasantly surprised at how natural some of the forms flowed into her own style. She also felt more confident while in the air and was able to string together far more attacks before having to land. The frequent sparring with her Shadow was showing her firsthand the progress she was making.
Today's work was over, though. Shampoo proceeded to go through her warm down exercises and would be going to bed early. Tomorrow she would be packing up.
It was time to put her new skills to use.
While she was making great progress and could continue improving something that Shampoo had warned her great-grandmother about was starting to kick in. Loneliness. Eating, sleeping and training day in and day out for three strait weeks with no one else around but wild animals was really beginning to wear thin. Besides, in Shampoo's experience the best way to learn was through battle and she was leaving to seek out exactly that.
Despite the tiredness that she felt while laying in her bed roll from the day's activities Shampoo was finding it hard to fall asleep. The thought of putting her accomplishments to the test and standing triumphant above her fallen foes left her too excited for sleep. She hadn't felt this way since the day before the annual tournament; the day that she would show the whole village her prowess in combat. Little sleep had been gained on that night either.
Finally, Shampoo reminded herself that even though she was leaving it would take days to get back to civilization and find a suitable opponent. That helped curb her enthusiasm enough that she was able to drift asleep. Later that night she had pleasant dreams of Ranma finally seeing just how right she was for him.
Shampoo looked over the building that she had been seeking out for the past hour. It was a dojo and from the looks of it, it was maintained well. The walls were covered in a pine finish and the bushes surrounding it were full and trimmed to near perfect round globes. The building was at least twice the size of the Tendo Dojo and showed nowhere near the amount of wear and tear that was obvious on that structure. There was even one of those odd rock gardens that Shampoo had spotted in the back as she was searching for the entrance. She had never understood those things but there was a lot about the Japanese that she didn't understand.
Casting aside those thoughts as irrelevant she read the sign hanging by the door.
"The Hiroto School of Martial Arts," it read.
From the descriptions that Shampoo had been able to gather from the locals this dojo was suppose to be one of the best in this part of Japan. It was also known for its specialty in midair combat. Perfect for what she had planned.
On her trip back to civilization, Shampoo had decided not to head directly back to Nerima. Before presenting herself to her great-grandmother for evaluation she wanted to be sure that her trials had paid off. It wouldn't do to return and then get only a sub par grade. So once she had reached populated areas again she had asked around for any people or places that accepted challenges. One of the names that had kept popping up was Hiroto, which had eventually lead her here.
Not one to stand around and enjoy the scenery when there was work to do, Shampoo stepped up to the door and entered. Inside it looked just as well taken care of as outside. Equipment and mats were neatly hung up or stacked in easy to access areas. The signs of the school's mottoes and other quotes were placed strategically around the walls to give encouragement while not looking cluttered.
However, the place where most of Shampoo's attention was focused was in the center of the dojo. Here there was apparently a class underway with at least seven rows of students wide and ten deep all following the movements of four teachers. Most of the students were adult men with a few women sprinkled within and of the teachers one of them was female. All were wearing white gi's that looked as well kept as everything else she had seen. It seemed that all of them were synchronizing their movements almost perfectly.
Any other person may have been impressed by all the excellent showings of the dojo and its participants but Shampoo was decidedly underwhelmed. In her village presentation and impressive design didn't win fights. And while the class was larger than any that she had attended at home, she could already tell that most, if not all, of the students had never been in serious fights. Sparring didn't count. Their movements were correct but they screamed mechanical and lacked that certain edge that separated the ones that fought with the ones that won. Shampoo guessed that the majority of these people came here not to fight but for exercise and as a hobby.
Looking at this scene Shampoo couldn't help but think how Ranma could ever consider this type of lifestyle. While teaching the next generation was always important, Shampoo could never see herself or Ranma going day in and day out reviewing the same material for people that were unlikely to take it as seriously as themselves. It would eat up time better spent learning new techniques or improving core speed and strength. It would be such a waste of Ranma's talents.
If the Tendos thought that this was the ultimate future for Ranma they had better think again. Shampoo was determined more than ever to show Ranma that she offered more than they ever could.
That would have to wait until she got back. A few minutes later the class finished their kata and bowed to the teachers. One of the men in the mass of students looked up and saw her and nudged the guy next to him to take a look. Soon just about every eye was on her with some giving her leery glances. Finally, one of the male teachers walked up to her.
"May I help you, miss?"
Shampoo placed down her pack and regarded the teacher. He looked to be in his forties and in good shape with features that were on the average side. His black hair was combed down and had a small ponytail tied at the back. His posture was relaxed and open, probably to keep her at ease. Overall the man reminded her of Doctor Tofu, though a good deal less handsome.
"Yes, Shampoo hear this place have good style. Practice midair style, yes?"
The man smiled good-naturedly. "Not just a midair style miss but the best in all Tokyo proper. The Hiroto style has a history going back fifty years and is recognized as the top form of air combat even by our local law enforcement. In fact we have some officers in with us right now." A few cheers from the crowd punctuated that statement. "Are you here to join our membership? We have several after school junior classes available."
Shampoo sighed at the man's salesmanship and shook her head. "No. Shampoo wants challenge dojo. Have been learning air style of own and need fights to see if improved."
"Challenge our dojo?" the man said with stunned amusement. "Miss, I think you are a little too young to be thinking of taking dojo challenges. I'm sure you think you're good but that type of thing is only for serious masters."
"Shampoo is serious!" she shouted, bristling at the implications that because of her age she was being denied her chance at a challenge. The only thing keeper her back so far was that he hadn't made any comments about her gender.
"Aw, sensei, let the chick show her stuf-OOMPH!" The rest of the man's statement within the throng of students was cut off by the chúi that was now implanted into his face. The man and chúi fell to the floor with the man spread eagle and completely unconscious.
The teacher that had been speaking to the odd girl looked at where she was, angry and daring with her eyes for anyone else to make a comment, and where his unlucky student was now laying. The man had been several deep in the group and the distance well over twenty feet but had been pinpointed and brained in less than a second. He'd barely seen her move and was completely unable to determine where she had produced her weapon.
Turning back to her he said, "Fine. We accept your challenge."
After the unconscious student had been carted off room was made for the upcoming fight. Shampoo stood, waiting in the center while the rest of the members looked on with anticipation and a little hostility. After all, one of their own had been struck down and while the comment he had made was a little rude they didn't think it warranted the punishment that he received. Although none of these onlookers had ever met an irate Joketsuzoku before.
Finally, a different man than the one Shampoo had spoken to earlier stepped out and took position. His build was basically the same as the other teachers and looked to be a touch older than the rest. "I am in charge of this dojo while the owner is out," he began. "My name is Rasseru Tiama. Yours?"
"Am Shampoo of Nǚjiézú, tribe of Joketsuzoku."
"Never heard of it I'm afraid. What are your intentions here? Are you challenging us for our sign? If you are then I should warn you that some have tried and none have succeeded. Even the Dojo Destroyer couldn't overcome us."
"Shampoo not care about stupid wood. And am not impressed by you fighting off big, ugly, fish-head man." While the Dojo Destroyer had been an intimidating sight she herself had been able to climb all over him to place Instant Nannīchuan packets on his vital spots without him being able to stop her. Or he had been too oblivious. Either way Ranma had beaten him with one punch sending him through the roof of the Tendo Dojo, so she wasn't too concerned.
"I see you've met who I speak of." Despite his composure Rasseru was a little nervous. Anyone who could shrug off a confrontation with that mountain of a man needed to be taken seriously.
"Am looking to test new training," Shampoo continued. "Heard school was good in air so want to see if have improved. You put on good show, yes?"
Her opponent was now looking a bit angry at how she was casually taking this challenge. Good, Shampoo thought. At least my taunting hasn't gotten stale.
From the side came the teacher from before to stand between them. "This challenge then is for personal reasons and not for the sign. Winner will be declared by submission or knock-out. No weapons are allowed and the fight must remain within this building. Any who leave are disqualified." He looked at Shampoo who shrugged, produced her chúi and placed them near her pack. Even watching carefully, the teacher still couldn't figure out how she had hid them. When she returned the teacher raised his arm and said, "Ready?" Rasseru gave a bow and set himself while Shampoo placed her palms against each other in front of her chest and waited. Seeing that everyone was in their place he lowered the raised hand and shouted, "Begin!"
Rasseru wasted no time coming in for the attack. He wasn't going to play the game of underestimating his opponent and losing. Unlike his fellow teachers, he had heard rumors of teenagers with amazing martial arts ability way beyond their years in a neighboring district. He had a strong suspicion that this girl was one of them. Plus, if she wanted to barge in here and treat them as she had then he would let her know just how stupid a challenge to the Hiroto dojo was. And, since she was so interested in their air combat style, why disappoint her?
He led off with a horizontal jump-kick aimed straight at her head. It was too high for her to jump over so as soon as she dodged either way would be the time to twist and catch her with another attack before he even touched the ground. If he could continue to press the attack he may be able to end this soon.
Apparently, rumors weren't enough to prepare him for what Shampoo did. Even as his foot was bare inches from her head, Shampoo sprang up and somersaulted off his outstretched foot with both hands which managed to propel her high in the air. Now with the height advantage Shampoo came down for her own attack.
Despite his brain telling him of the impossibility of it all, Rasseru's ingrained reflexes still managed him to twist, drop down on his own hands and send a kick straight up in hopes of catching Shampoo on her way down. It only partially worked as Shampoo's descending foot landed on his own. Just like the tree branches that Shampoo had so recently been training on she used the unconventional foothold to jump even higher.
Rasseru landed roughly on his stomach from the unexpected weight gain then loss that had been placed on his leg which had shot off his balance. He then had enough time to look up and frantically roll out of the way as the meteor known as Shampoo descended right where his back had been and plowed through the floor boards like thin ice. Rasseru reclaimed his feet and gaped at the damage done to his precious dojo.
"Look what you did you reckless snot!" he bellowed at Shampoo as she yanked her foot out of the foot wide depression of broken wood and dirt.
"Shampoo fix if you beat her," she replied. This was exactly why she didn't like fighting indoors! People got so fussy when she inevitably broke something during the heat of battle. Besides, it wasn't like she had been aiming for the floor. She had wanted to do that to this guy's spine.
Shampoo decided to lead off this time while Rasseru was still whining about his dojo. Staying on the ground for now, she came in with a punching and spin kick combination that pressed Rasseru into focusing on the fight. She kept up her assault and was pleased to see that even though Rasseru was able to block and dodge her attempts at finding an opening, he was definitely being taxed to do so.
Quickly coming to the conclusion that he was being overwhelmed, Rasseru hopped backwards for some room and bounded right back to take this fight back into the air. Shampoo gladly obliged.
Rasseru was hoping that's Shampoo's experience in air combat was still in the beginning fazes. Even though this fight had lasted only a few minutes it was obvious that Shampoo was faster than him. While he had fought plenty who were faster usually they didn't have the strength that Shampoo's light frame would suggest. It was downright inhuman and Rasseru was banking on skill to get him through this fight.
The two met in midair once again with Rasseru leading with a sweep kick across his body which Shampoo was forced to block with her forearm. He quickly followed up with several punches while he still had his forward momentum. This time it was Rasseru who was pleased to see that Shampoo was unable to counter though she was able to dodge his attacks with some impressive body contortions.
They passed each other and as soon as Rasseru feet found purchase he jumped and spun to face Shampoo for another round. Shampoo was already in the air as well but had gone for a back flip. She was now looking at him from upside down and readying a reverse high-kick. She was also wearing a smirk that caused Rasseru to scowl in response.
She's taking me far too lightly, he thought disgustedly even as he raised his arms to block the kick. The force of it was enough to stop him mid flight and drop him down to the floor. The throbbing he felt in his arms as he landed made him reconsider his previous thought.
Shampoo landed a few feet behind him and spun to face her opponent. Things were going great if she were to say so. Time to put an end to it soon though. However, not before a little dodging practice.
Three more times Shampoo and Rasseru clashed in the sky with Rasseru throwing every maneuver and technique he could come up with to take down the obnoxious brat. Frustratingly, he was unable to land a blow as Shampoo moved around his attacks like mist. He had several more things to try but it was maddening how none of his techniques were currently working. Finally, after their third exchange Rasseru thought he might have a plan to take her down. She had done nothing but avoid his attempts to hit her, so maybe she was running out of moves to fight back with. If that was the case, the next time she attacked would be the last time.
Rasseru took a moment to collect himself and jumped as high as he could towards Shampoo. Shampoo did the same as well. As the two approached each other Rasseru was pleased to see that Shampoo was getting set for an offense. Shampoo started lashing out with several punches that he was able to deflect off his arms and as the two began to fall Rasseru made a grab of one of Shampoo's wrists. Using the slight leverage that this gained he quickly brought Shampoo forward to land a knee as hard as he could in her stomach and began to twist them around so that Shampoo would be the one hitting first on the fast approaching floor.
Unfortunately, this was where Rasseru's strategy fell apart.
Shampoo wasn't nearly as affected by the knee strike as he had hoped and bringing his opponent in close gave Shampoo the opportunity to land an elbow just above his left eye despite his best attempt to turn his head to avoid it. Too dazed to follow up with his twist allowed Shampoo what time she had left to push off him and take a hard roll on the ground. It was graceless but it was far better than what Rasseru managed.
Or didn't manage. With a hard smack, Rasseru made contact with the ground on his side. Groaning through the pain Rasseru pushed off on his good arm and wobbly made it to his feet.
The urgent cries of his student's shook whatever cobwebs that were still in his head and Rasseru looked up in time to see two dainty shoes just before they crashed into his face. The last sensation that he had was the back of his head making impact with the floor and the thought that even the Dojo Destroyer hadn't hit him as hard as this.
Shampoo hopped off her downed foe and looked at her foot work. The imprints of her shoes would be embedded in his face for a few days if she were any judge. And she considered herself a pretty good judge.
She had held back a little on that last hit. Since the man had complained about the last hole in the floor she decided to do him a favor and not put his head through the ground. Shampoo hoped he appreciated that once he woke back up.
Satisfied with the fight, Shampoo looked expectantly at the referee. The man was staring blankly at his downed colleague and wasn't paying the least amount of attention to Shampoo.
Not a wise choice.
A bop on the head latter the referee raised Shampoo's hand while massaging the growing lump on his skull with the other. Just who was this girl?
Something that Rasseru had neglected to mention about the confrontation with the Dojo Destroyer was that it had taken all the masters of the school fighting consecutively to beat that monster. Rasseru himself had gotten several key hits in that had eventually worn the Dojo Destroyer down.
Not against this girl, though. The fight had been decisive and Rasseru had barely been able to touch her while the one good hit that he got in didn't even seem to faze her. He wasn't sure if a repeat performance of all the masters fighting her one after the other would be enough to stop this one. He was suddenly grateful that the dojo sign hadn't been up for grabs.
The teacher's attention was brought back to the girl in question as she said, " Aiyaa, was good fight! Help me realize that I didn't waste time past few weeks."
"Yes...You're welcome, I guess," was his safe reply. He cleared his throat before she could continue. "I'm glad that we have helped an aspiring fighter such as yourself on her way but I think it would be best if you now leave."
"Why? Wanted to challenge more. Is good training, no?"
"Ah..." The teacher looked at his contemporaries desperately for any help. Unfortunately, it looked as though the rest didn't want to go up against that type of savagery either. Before he could stammer out some excuse a woman from the class stepped out and made her way slowly and carefully to them, as if approaching a dangerous animal. Considering the look on her face she probably wasn't too far off from making that thought.
When she reached them she tentatively waved and said, "Hi."
"Nihao!" Shampoo greeted in return.
Taken back at how cheerful the strange and dangerous girl had become the woman decided to get this over with quick. "Um, if your looking to really test yourself there are regularly scheduled tournaments in the inner city. I've, uh, never been there but some of the others here have and they say the fighters there are really good. Maybe you'd be better off trying there?" Please Kami-sama, let her agree, she thought desperately.
Shampoo gained a thoughtful look as she considered this. While she did everyone in the room was suddenly struck at just how cute she looked with her frown and scrunched up features. Somehow this made them all the more uneasy. There was just something wrong with having an attractive female who could switch to a violent maniac at a moment's notice.
Somewhere in the city, Ranma sneezed.
Finally, Shampoo made a fist with one hand and bopped it into the palm of the other. "Is good thinking," she said. She bounced over to her pack, rummaged inside it for a few seconds then bounded back. She handed the woman a pencil and a piece of paper. "You write down where I can find tournament, please? Shampoo not know that part of city very well."
Relieved that her idea was working the woman quickly wrote down the address. Once finished she handed the writing materials back, smiled and made her way back to the rest of the students.
Shampoo placed the slip of paper into a pocket on her customary Chinese pantsuit. She made her way to her pack, slipped it on and waved to the students and teachers. "Thanks for your help! Had fun! Bye bye!" Thinking that she liked the people too much Shampoo exited out the main door instead of making one of her more convenient ones.
After all, she didn't want them to think that she was inconsiderate of their help.
After the terror from China had left, it was a few more moments before anyone dared speak.
"What the hell was that?!" came the collective outburst.
If Rasseru was still conscious, he would have agreed with that sentiment.